Grafton Ghosts have lost control of this season
GRAFTON Ghosts' season-long problem with controlling possession cost them any hope of victory against Coffs Harbour Comets in yesterday's Group 2 qualifying semi-final.
The Ghosts fell behind 10-0 early in a match played in hot conditions and were never able to put the home side under consistent pressure.
The absence of injured playmaker Ryan Farrell was clear throughout, despite the busy efforts of halves Raih Woodley and Blake Winmill.
Captain coach Ben McLennan said the trouble holding onto the ball made it difficult to launch a comeback after falling behind early.
"It's been the same all year. We keep playing good footy in patches then lose possession and take the pressure off them," he said.
"Good teams like Coffs Harbour are always going to punish you."
Despite running into a fresh breeze Comets took charge early with tries to centre Jake Van Hamond and winger Billy Griffiths.
Ghosts gradually played their way into the match once they were able to get their hands on the ball.
A smooth backline move almost led to a Grafton try in the left-hand corner but they found their way onto the scoreboard after five-eighth Woodley was held up over the line.
The ball spilled free before referee Nathan Grace called held and fullback Cameron Stewart snapped it up and crossed the line to score under the posts, and Matt Muller's conversion made the deficit just four points.
That try was followed by a perhaps the Ghosts' best period of the match but two tries late in the half had the Comets sitting comfortably up 20-6 at the break.
Mitch Gorman flew down the right wing to score in the corner soon after the start of the second stanza and gave Ghosts fans hope of a comeback similar to last week's against South Grafton.
Those hopes didn't last long, however, as Griffiths, who was one of the Comets' best on the day, touched down just minutes later.
Knock-ons close to the Comets' line cost the Ghosts dearly on a couple of occasions and they were made to pay when prop Miles Fairbank crossed for Coffs.
The Ghosts kept trying bravely and took advantage when the home team twice lost possession.
Gorman raced through the middle of the defence after Coffs spurned a great scoring chance and then coughed up the ball, while Blake Winmill also picked up a loose ball to score under the posts.
In reserve grade two late tries gave the Ghosts a thrilling 28-26 win over South Grafton, while the Rebels also lost in Under-18s, 34-10 to Sawtell.
Next week's the Ghosts will host the minor-semi-finals on Saturday and the major semi-finals will be at McKittrick Park on Sunday.